But for a two-hour chat, renowned gastroenterologist Professor Lee Sum-ping, the dean of University of Hong Kong's medicine faculty, could have been known to the world as a poet. 'That was the turning point of my life,' the professor said, referring to a talk with Jimmy Lowcock, his headmaster at Diocesan Boys' School. It was the summer of 1963 and Lee, then 16, was a budding writer who had won prizes in language subjects. He had just finished his Certificate of Education examinations and had enrolled in the arts stream when his father suddenly died of lung cancer and he decided that only a career in medicine would enable him to ease the suffering of others. He asked Lowcock for a switch of courses. 'He was worried it was just an emotional decision, but I told him that it was my calling to study medicine,' Lee said. 'He was also worried that I could not catch up academically.' Lowcock eventually allowed Lee into the science stream and he entered HKU's medicine programme two years later. 'Many administrators do not have that degree of flexibility. It is rare for a school to have such a liberal culture,' Lee said. He said he was 'rather serious, introspective and sometimes moody', but had fun at school. As an editor of the school magazine, Steps, Lee had free rein to 'poke fun at teachers'. He cut off the hair from a picture of one, Timothy Ha Wing-ho, who would later become the principal of St Paul's College. In a scripture lesson, the boys put an alarm clock in the desk drawer, set to ring 15 minutes before class ended. When the whole class suddenly dashed out of the classroom, the poor teacher was left saying: 'Is this a fire drill?'